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Stop Spending Pothole Funds on Other Services, Say MPs


A man stood over a pothole filled with water

A group of MPs and Lords, set up to look at how the UK’s roads can be improved, has called on the Government to ringfence funds for fixing potholes again. In its September 2023 report, Working for Better Roads, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Better Roads suggested that some councils were using money earmarked for road repairs for other things.

What is the APPG for Better Roads?

Comprised of Members of Parliament and Lords from various parties, APPGs like Better Roads advocate for specific issues. Chaired by Sir Christopher Chope MP, the Conservative representative for Christchurch, the APPG for Better Roads emphasises the need for sustained investment in road repair initiatives like pothole solutions, re-tarmacking and thermal contracting.

Key Takeaways from the Report

The report underscores the importance of ringfencing funds for addressing potholes, citing the success of the Department for Transport's (DfT) Pothole Action Fund from 2015/16 to 2020/21. Initially set at £250 million and later increased to £296 million, this fund was earmarked specifically for pothole solutions including repairs and preventative measures. However, subsequent changes in funding allocation have led to a lack of transparency and accountability in expenditure, with funds now integrated into local authorities' broader budgets.


This has reduced transparency about where the money is going, says the APPG report: “With the normal roads funding streams there is a risk of them being squeezed or allocated elsewhere, given the many pressures on local authority budgets, such as social care.”


The APPG report calls on statistics collected from local authorities through the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey. (The AIA, together with the Institute of Highways Engineers (IHE) researched and funded the report). Comparing the periods when pothole funds weren’t ringfenced with when they were, the average shortfall in the carriageway maintenance budget is rising. Additionally, the proportion of the network considered to be in ‘good’ condition was rising when funds were ringfenced and is now declining.


“Removing the ringfence has contributed to a reversal of the progress made,” says the report.

The Impact of Reduced Funding for Local Authorities

However, it seems likely that overall reductions in funding to councils, and competition from other demands on cash, must have contributed to declining road quality too. An average of 46% of funding for road repairs comes from central government, with the rest coming from local authorities, according to the ALARM surveys.


The APPG report also points out that local roads are taking more loading than previously, with over a million more vans licensed today than ten years ago. An increase in heavier electric vehicles and automated vehicles which could run in the same channels of road repeatedly could make matters even worse.


The report also spells out some stark facts about England’s local road network compared to its strategic one, which is run by National Highways. The strategic road network is 4,500 miles long compared to 176,249 for the local road network, and yet the Government spends 31 times more per mile to maintain motorways compared to local roads.


The APPG recommends that a Better Roads Fund be created with long-term funding commitments and ringfencing and that there is transparency over how such funds are spent. 


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